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Torridge and West Devon Liberal Democrats

Former MP speaks up for Devon farmers in House of Lords

June 28, 2020 7:35 PM

Lord Burnett, who was MP for Torridge and West Devon between 1997 and 2005, has made an impassioned speech in the House of Lords in support of beef and sheep farmers who are set to be severely disadvantaged by new tariffs to be introduced if there is no trade agreement with the European Union by the end of this year.

The Government proposals are for a tariff of approximately 12% on imports of beef into this country from the EU, compared to a tariff of between 40% and 60% for our exports of beef to the EU.

Speaking in the Agriculture Bill debate on 10 June, Lord Burnett said:

'This means that we shall be in the ludicrous position of subsidising imports. Trade in beef products will be severely disrupted, and with dire consequences for our farmers.

Similarly, exports of sheep meat to the EU will carry a tariff of between 40% and 60%. Nearly 40% of British sheep meat is exported to the EU, while imports are negligible.

Lord Burnett said:

'This product is very price sensitive. Exports will be severely cut and there will be chronic oversupply in the UK. The price of sheep meat will plummet, leaving our sheep farmers' stock values decimated. The continuation of the basic payment scheme and other support will not even start to make up the difference. The sheep sector faces a very damaging period, lasting for years.'

Lord Burnett warned that the UK's high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection were at risk from the pressures on the Government to complete a trade agreement with the United States.

He said:

'Unless we impose the most compelling and robust statutory prohibitions on the Government, we shall be flooded with cheap, hormone-fed beef that is reared with scant regard for animal welfare and with other products that are equally substandard. For example, there are many crop sprays permitted in the United States which have been outlawed in the EU, and therefore in Britain, for years.

In a recent YouGov poll, only 8% of the British population thought that allowing imports of hormone-treated beef or chlorine-washed chicken would be acceptable as part of a US trade deal.


  1. Lord Burnett's speech is reported in full at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2020-06-10/debates/EC829DFD-0FAF-4DCA-94DE-9431DBB2A966/AgricultureBill
  2. Results of YouGov poll carried out on 10-11 June 2020: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/food/articles-reports/2020/06/16/britain-chlorinated-chicken-US-trade-deal?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=website_article&utm_campaign=food_deal_US